For the Navajo people, grazing is an important aspect of their culture, seen as a historical tradition symbolizing their connection with the land. To help manage grazing on the Navajo Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) conducts regular rangeland assessments on the quality and quantity of vegetation available for livestock. These assessments are used to establish grazing permit quotas and to develop grazing management plans for land users. In 2016, several BIA agency offices on the Navajo Nation needed to update their vegetation resource inventories to assist in the preparation of rangeland management plans; two of which were conducted in District 3 of Western Navajo Agency and Precincts 1 and 3 of the Navajo Partitioned Lands. All inventories required analysis of vegetation diversity, annual production, cover, and frequency according the the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Technical Guidance documents for vegetation inventory and monitoring. Such inventories are valuable rangeland planning and management decision-making tools for the BIA and the Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture.
Technical Contribution of Heidi Trathnigg as an employee of Fred Phillips Consulting
Heidi served as the Project Manager for both vegetation inventories in Western Navajo Agency and the Navajo Partitioned Lands.
- Field Crew Management – Management of field crews hired to conduct vegetation surveys in designated survey areas. Organized and facilitating technical training of field crew members prior to survey work.
- Project Management – Handled communications with BIA regarding project progress, contract management, and budget updates
- Final Report Preparation – Managed development of project report and data transfers with client. Reviewed all submitted documents and deliverables for completeness, accuracy, and fidelity. Addressed additional revisions to reports based on BIA Regional input.
Technical Contribution of Sabrina Kleinman as an employee of Fred Phillips Consulting
- GIS Analysis – Identification of Order III Soil types, potential ecological site descriptions, and transect locations within each survey area. Modeling of similarity indices to determine areas where vegetation production was significantly lower than anticipated for the ecological site to help guide rangeland management priorities.
- Survey Management – Developed Fulcrum survey forms and GPS data for field crew to manage data collection assignments and daily data uploads. Assisted field crews with plant identification and classification and organization of transect photos by ecological site and location.
- Data Analysis – Organized and reviewed collected data for accuracy, completeness, and consistency. Calculated vegetation production by ecological site and soil component for each range unit/precinct, including vegetative cover and frequency to determine potential shifts in community composition. Organized the Access database to refine data based on ecological factors, species, range units/precincts, and soils.
- Final Report Preparation – Prepared the final inventory reports to summarize and evaluate survey results. Identified of specific areas where rangeland resources have degraded, where invasive plant species are present or expanding, and where additional studies may be needed to determine more accurate carrying capacities.